Executing a Stellar Business to Business (B2B) Event

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1 Executing a Stellar Business to Business (B2B) Event Table of Contents About the Author... 1 Introduction... 1 Unique Aspects of B2B Events... 2 Step 1 Mission Statement... 2 Step 2 Measurable Goals... 2 Step 3 Audience... 3 Step 4 Partnerships... 3 Step 5 Format & Location... 4 Step 6 Budget... 4 Step 7 Promotion... 5 Step 8 Registration... 5 Step 9 Public Relations... 6 Step 10 Logistics... 6 Step 11 Execute... 6 Step 12 Follow up & Review... 6 Figures About The Author In his career, and most recently with a Milwaukee based publishing and media company, Mike Kuharske was responsible for the promotion of SE Wisconsin s largest B2B expo and the launch of countless industry and executive focused meetings, events and workshops with attendance from 25 to 5,000. Key Event Tools Executive Summary, page 7 Sample Budget, page 8 Sample Event Script, page 9 Additionally, his experience includes audience and product development, strategic partnership development, marketing and sales campaigns. In 2009, he co founded Gravity Marketing LLC, a firm that helps B2B organizations grow revenue by optimizing marketing, advertising and sales efforts. He can be reached at or Introduction The purpose of this document is to empower you to plan and produce successful business to business (B2B) events through a repeatable process and tools. In the following pages you ll find step by step considerations for planning, promoting, executing and optimizing B2B events, gathered through years of experience. Every organization has inherent value it s why the organization exists. The trick is to find ways to deliver bits of that value, expertise or knowledge to the individuals who need your products and services or can refer you business. Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 1

2 The key to a stellar event starts with these guiding principles: Unique Aspects of B2B Events Put your audience first their perception is reality. Be a resource avoid a pitch, quality content rules the day. Don t reinvent the wheel there are tools and ideas that are proven. Speak their language focus on what they need, in ways they understand. Execute against a plan no matter how simple, a plan keeps you on track. Business events can still be fun! Event attendees are more professionally motivated than personally motivated, and it can be argued that if your event appeals too much to their personal motivation it might not correlate to your organization. Exceptions are networking, customer appreciation, or outings where interaction with the right people is the goal regardless of the context. Often the audience of a single B2B event might have many different segments who are motivated to attend for different reasons. B2B events usually play an integral role in a long, relationship based buying process of a business customer. A B2B event usually has a broader purpose or goal than the event itself. Example: Multi faceted Goal At the same time that a product demonstration event should produce sales leads, we need to position our company s leadership position in the market. Step 1 Generate a Mission Statement As succinctly as possible (no more than a few sentences), describe: What is the event? Who should it matter to? What will make it matter to them? What are the desired outcomes for your organization? Example A luncheon to launch new telephony product Host an exclusive luncheon targeted toward owners and top executives of companies between 5 and 50 employees in SE Wisconsin. Additionally, execute a campaign that creates multiple impressions on a target audience of 1,000 to create awareness of telephony capabilities, XYZ company expertise, drive traffic to a micro site, and culminate in 20 qualified prospects attending the event. Start drafting an executive summary (figure 1), as you work through these steps, you can choose to add or leave out detail as needed. Step 2 Create Measurable Goals What are realistic expectations and goals for this event? Example without advertising Audience roughly 1,000 qualified prospects, clients, referral sources Impressions make 4 8 impressions on each individual Attendees 50 to 100 Post Follow up 2 or 3 impressions Sales Leads 50 to 100 contacts provided to sales Sales Opps 5 to 10 immediate opportunities Example: Organizational Goals Position company expertise Lead generation Training Demonstration Networking Customer retention or appreciation Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 2

3 Example with advertising Audience roughly 1,200 qualified prospects, clients, referral sources Impressions make 4 8 impressions on each individual Advertising 2 to 3 impressions on XX,XXX general targeted audience PR Article/Mention in one publication (XX,XXX impressions) Attendees 75 to 150 Post Follow up 1 to 3 impressions on 1,200 Sales Leads 50 to 100 contacts provided to sales Sales Opps 5 to 10 immediate opportunities Step 3 Clearly Define Your Audience Who exactly should attend? Beyond describing your target audience as prospects, clients or referral sources identify specific demographics or commonalities they share. For a single event, you may have several audience segments which should be considered when you are creating the messaging. Example #1 Technology product launch event Owners and top executives (CEO, President, EVP) of businesses in metro Milwaukee with 5 to 50 employees. Example #2 Reception to launch an artist s corporate work Primary (Prospects) top executives (C suite) of companies with $50 million in sales an above in SE Wisconsin and executive directors of business improvement districts. Secondary (Referral Sources) architects, interior designers, commercial real estate developers, and brokers. Partnership Possibilities Vendors Industry Associations Partner Organizations Chambers of Commerce Business Publications Where will invitees come from? Internal Resources CRM system, marketing database, sales team, sales records (accounting) External Resources purchased lists, advertising, and partnerships (see step 3) Step 4 Identify Possible Partnerships Knowing your target audience, think of places where a community of these individuals already exists. If you re looking to reach lawyers, perhaps a legal association will help promote the event. If it s business owners, perhaps there is a strong chamber of commerce in your area. From your perspective, an ideal partner should have a strong community that can be leveraged. Note: WIIFM (what s in it for me) think about what value you can offer a potential partner in your event. Types of Partnerships Promotional Partners industry associations, chambers, charities Most promotional partnerships need to have mutual interest in the same target audience. Further, there must be some hook that would get them to freely share information or access to their membership (i.e. they have a strong drive for new members, your event can be positioned as a member benefit, etc ) The key is what s in it for them to team up with you? Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 3

4 Funding Partners key suppliers, vendors, complimentary organizations If there is enough mutual benefit, some partners may help offset costs or fund specific aspects of the event/campaign. This could include teaming up to co produce the event, or accessing vender co op dollars for logo or cobranding. Step 5 Decide Your Format & Location Common Event Types Example Supply Chain Improvement Seminar A consulting firm that helps manufacturers optimize their supply chain plans to host a seminar. Instead of keeping it specific to their solutions, they involve a law firm that deals specifically with supply chain issues and an accounting firm with a specialization in cost accounting. Collectively, they now offer a highly valuable seminar targeted toward mutual prospects and it reduces the hard costs they would incur individually. Often the organization that plans and executes the event can almost completely eliminate hard costs by involving partner organizations. FREE Event? Well, maybe not free, but often the organization that plans and executes an event can offset costs by involving partner organizations. Conferences Receptions Breakfasts Presentations Luncheons Location/Venue Dinner Meeting Roundtables Seminar Demonstration Trade Shows Golf Outings Sporting Event Holiday Party Your selection of a venue is dependent on the size, type, format, and desired experience you wish your attendees to have. A few questions to ask yourself: Should the location be part of the appeal of the event? Is it geographically well located in relation your target audience? Can it handle the necessary logistics? (I.e. catering, presentation technology, etc.) Step 6 Develop Your Budget Revenue most times B2B events are part of the sales/marketing process and are seen as an investment to create interaction between sales professionals and clients/prospects, meaning they are promoted as free to the desired audience. Sample Budget See page 8 However, conferences, trade shows, training courses and seminars with high quality content or speakers may allow you to offset costs with a registration fee. Note: a paid event may be indicative of stronger commitment on the part of an attendee, but it may also create a lower threshold for sales contact. If considering a paid event, research typical price points for similar events in your area. Also, if payment is necessary to offset speaker costs you might find you re your attendance goals are unrealistic. Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 4

5 Expenses identify as many things as possible (and as specifically as possible) that will create costs associated to the event. The most common expenses include: Facility Rental Food Beverage Speaker Signage Step 7 Plan Your Promotion A/V Equipment Marketing/Invitations Advertising Event Materials TIP: Use standard tools such as one of the many template event budgets in Microsoft Excel. These will force you to estimate your costs in advance and then reconcile it with the actual costs afterward (figure 2). Note: A high quality free event can justify the attendee providing complete and accurate contact or even demographic data. Messaging create a very succinct message (based on your audience) that you want to resonate with them regardless of whether they attend the event. Promotional Tools you may use just a few, or almost all of the following items when promoting your event. Blast E Mail Individual E mails Letters Invitations Post cards Flyers Newsletters Company Website Web Advertising Print Advertising Sales Hand outs Telemarketing Sales Phone Calls Public Event Calendars TIP: Different audience segments for a particular event may need to be communicated to differently. Timeline create a specific timeline of major activities beginning 8 weeks prior to the event and continuing through to event follow up activities (see figure 1). Step 8 Develop Registration Process Think about how you want individuals to register for the event. An easy, streamlined process removes a barrier to whether someone will attend the event or not. If you have complete contact information upfront, perhaps a simple e mail RSVP that can be checked off against the list is fine. However, even for free events it may be worth considering online registration tools because of their ease of use, completeness of contact information, template promotion capabilities, and retention/reminder function. Capturing complete and accurate contact information may be essential in securing valuable promotional partnerships or in the success of the event in creating sales opportunities. TIP: Online registration software can streamline the process and capture valuable attendee information. Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 5

6 Step 9 Generate PR Generating public relations coverage isn t magic. It simply requires having the right message to the right person at the right time. If your event is substantial enough, you might consider a PR agency. A PR agency has relationships, contacts and knowledge that may justify their fee versus the amount of effort necessary to produce results. For most events you can follow this simple plan to increase the likelihood that you can obtain coverage for your event: The right media identify the media outlets whose purpose is to provide information to the exact audience your event serves. The right contact figure out who within the media outlet has responsibility for covering the content area your event focuses on (this could be a particular industry, someone specifically covering events ) The right message understand their editorial mission (what kind of information do they try to deliver), position your event in that context. The right time find out when they need the information based on their production schedule (a weekly publication might need to know of an event two weeks in advance). Follow up simply sending out a press release and hoping won t work. Conserve your efforts, contact fewer people and do it personally. Step 10 Develop Logistical Plan Desired Experience Place yourself in the shoes of an attendee and walk yourself through the event. How should you be greeted? Where will you hang your coat? Do you have a name tag? Where do you go? How do you find your seat? Messaging make sure all staff understand the succinct positioning of the event and can communicate it in their own language. Prior to the event, reconfirm the purpose of the event with staff so they understand how to engage with people. Staffing who do you need and what are their roles and responsibilities? Layout how does the room(s) need to be set up, whose responsibility? This will vary greatly based on format/type of the event. Program/Content Schedule the content and flow of the program, presentation, etc, and make sure everyone involved understands their role. If the event dictates, a complete event script (think movie script) should be developed to assure there are no surprises, see figure 3. Event Materials plan for any appropriate booklets, flyers, hand outs, signage, satisfaction surveys, etc TIP: Don t underestimate the value of a basic event script. It avoids the danger of changes made on the fly. Step 11 EXECUTE Your company or organization will never look better than it does during a wellexecuted event, and with a plan it ll seem easy! Don t forget the Follow Up! Step 12 Follow up & Review Ideally, your well prepared plan helped you avoid typical pitfalls in event planning and execution and the measurable were achieved. But, this is the real world things come up and incremental improvement is always possible. Identify those things that could be improved and use them next time. Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 6

7 Figure 1 Sample Executive Summary Note: Starting with a draft of an Executive Summary similar to this example can be a good first step. Utilize the rest of this document to fill in the blanks. Even if you get no further than creating a top level summary plan for your event, the process will be easier. Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 7

8 Figure 2 Sample Budget Reminder: Don t reinvent the wheel! Within MS Office you ll find a variety of starter budgets for events. Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 8

9 Figure 3 Sample Event Script Executing a Stellar B2B Event Page 9

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